United States District Court, D. New Jersey
KEVIN MCNULTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the dismissal of most of the claims in the Complaint on
statute of limitations grounds (ECF no. 13), what remained
was a § 1983 malicious prosecution claim by Steven
Meleika, pro se, against the City of Jersey City.
The City has now filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF no.
24) as to that remaining claim. For the reasons stated
herein, that motion, whether construed as a motion for
summary judgment or as one for judgment on the pleadings, is
Complaint is brief, consisting of filled-in blanks on a
standard pro se complaint form. The underlying
factual allegations, in their entirety, are as follows:
On 5-1-2014 I was arrested by Jersey City Police in Jersey
City. I was criminally charged with multiple serious charges
(felonies). After going to court once every month for two
years, the charges were dismissed during trial. All charges
were dismissed without pleading guilty.
(Cplt. § III.C) Attached to the Complaint are medical
records of a cat scan, showing no serious injury, plus a
prescription for thirty 500 mg tablets of Naproxen, a pain
reliever. All are dated May 2, 2014. The Complaint states
that the date of dismissal of the criminal case was
10-7-2015. (Id. § III.B)
dismissed various claims arising from the May 1, 2014 arrest,
because they accrued outside of the applicable two-year
statute of limitations. (ECF no. 13) I denied the motion to
dismiss the § 1983 malicious prosecution claim, however,
because that cause of action did not accrue until the
criminal case was dismissed by the Jersey City Municipal
Court on October 7, 2015, a date that fell within the
order of dismissal was without prejudice to the submission of
an amended complaint within 30 days. Because no amended
complaint was filed, the dismissal of the arrest-related
claims has become final.
considering the motion to dismiss, I received a letter
request from the City that it be permitted to supplement its
motion with evidence that the plaintiff stipulated to
probable cause during the Municipal Court proceedings. (ECF
no. 12) Because the exhibit was proffered belatedly, I denied
that request without prejudice to any future motion for
dismissal or summary judgment. (ECF no. 13)
October 17, 2017, the City filed an Answer to the Complaint.
(ECF no. 16)
March 23, 2018, the City filed a motion for summary judgment
on the malicious prosecution claim. (ECF no. 24) It asserts
that, in connection with the dismissal of the State charges,
Meleika stipulated on the record that they were supported by
probable cause, thus negating an essential element of
March 27, 2018, Meleika filed a document titled
"Response to Defendant Motion to Dismiss." (ECF no.
25) From the context, however, it is clearly intended as a
response to the City's motion for summary judgment, and I
accept it as such.
17, 2018, Meleika filed another document, titled
"Amended Complaint." (ECF no. 27) At an in-person
conference before the Magistrate Judge, however, Meleika
clarified that he did not really mean to amend his complaint;
rather, this document was submitted in further opposition to
the summary judgment motion. Magistrate Judge Hammer
memorialized that understanding in a text order:
TEXT ORDER: For the reasons discussed on the record on July
26, 2018, and Plaintiff having stated that he does not seek
to amend his complaint and that the document filed at D.E. 27
was intended to support his opposition to the pending motion
for summary judgment, this Court will take no action on D.E.
27 at this time. Plaintiffs operative pleading remains the
Complaint docketed at D.E. 1. So Ordered by Magistrate Judge
Michael A. Hammer on 7/26/2018. (MAH) (Entered: 07/26/2018)
(ECF no. 29).
City has not filed a reply on its summary judgment motion.
The Applicable Standard
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment
should be granted "if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986);
Kreschollek v. S. Stevedoring Co., 223 F.3d 202, 204
(3d Cir. 2000). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, a
court must construe all facts and inferences in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Boyle v. Cnty.
of Allegheny Pennsylvania, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir.
1998). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that
no genuine issue of material fact remains. See Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548,
91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). "[W]ith respect to an issue on
which the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof... the
burden on the moving party may be discharged by
'showing'-that is, pointing out to the district
court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S.
motion, although styled as one for summary judgment, might
fit within the confines of a motion for judgment on the
pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).
See Section III.A, infra. I therefore
review the standards for such a motion.
motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c)
is often indistinguishable from a motion to dismiss, except
that it is made after the filing of a responsive pleading.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(2) "provides that
a defense of failure to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted may also be made by a motion for judgment on the
pleadings." Turbe v. Gov't of Virgin
Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991). Accordingly,
when a Rule 12(c) motion asserts that the complaint fails to
state a claim, the familiar Rule 12(b)(6) standard applies.
l2(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole
or in part, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted. The facts alleged in the complaint are
accepted as true and all reasonable inferences are drawn in
favor of the plaintiff. New Jersey Carpenters & the
Trustees Thereof v. Tishman Const Corp. of New Jersey,
760 F.3d 297, 302 (3d Cir. 2014). "[A] plaintiffs
obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his
'entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the
complaint's factual allegations must be sufficient to
raise a plaintiffs right to relief above a speculative level,
so that a claim is "plausible on its face."
Id. at 570; see also West Run Student Hous.
Assocs., LLC v. Huntington Nat. Bank, 712 F.3d 165, 169
(3d Cir. 2013). That facial-plausibility standard is met
"when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While "(t]he
plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability
requirement'... it asks for more than a sheer
possibility." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the complaint is
"to be liberally construed," and, "however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). Nevertheless,
"pro se litigants still must allege sufficient
facts in their complaints to support a claim." Mala
v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir.
2013). "While a litigant's pro se status requires a
court to construe the allegations in the complaint liberally,
a litigant is not absolved from complying with
Twombly and the federal pleading requirements merely
because s/he proceeds pro se." Thakar v. Tan,
372 Fed.Appx. 325, 328 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).